Recipes for gout

Lydiard House, Swindon

Sophie Cummings , 16.09.2013
Science and Superstition: Herbal Medicine and the History of Cures was an education project at Lydiard House in Swindon, supported by the Wellcome Trust.

It focused on Lady Johanna St John and her handwritten book of herbal remedies, written in the late 17th century.

The book had been electronically scanned by its owner, the Wellcome Collection. To help our researchers, school groups and partners, we needed to transcribe all 166 pages.

We chose to recruit distance volunteers as the task did not need the volunteers to be based at the museum. The task could fit around people’s commitments and therefore could appeal to a wider group of people.

Ten volunteers each had to transcribe 16 double pages of weird and wonderful herbal remedies. One volunteer then collated the pages and checked spelling and formatting. We used Dropbox to share work.

We kept in touch with our distance volunteers, invited them to all social events and celebrated their achievements.

Distance volunteering worked for us. The task was completed quickly by a new group of volunteers (many of whom worked full time or had childcare commitments).

We did not need to provide additional desk space or computer access and the new volunteers really enjoyed the task.

Sophie Cummings is the curator at Swindon Museums and Heritage Service